News Column

Dues and Don'ts of D.C.

October 2006, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Patricia Guadalupe

Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA)
Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA)

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus appears to have put aside a tiff over membership dues with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to focus on winning enough seats in November for Democrats to take a majority in the House come January. Several of the Hispanic lawmakers said they would not pay the campaign funds each is responsible for raising from $100,000 to $600,000 until House Democratic leaders address their concerns, including greater involvement in key decisions. When the squabble first erupted last year, former caucus chair Ed Pastor (D-AZ) said that the members "are concerned with the money that's been spent on different campaigns and that maybe the (campaign committee) has not been spending money for Hispanic candidates. We want a commitment that Hispanics are a priority, and by not paying the dues, obviously we get somebody's attention."

The caucus did get the attention of House leaders who, among other things, appointed Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) as one of several legislators and the only Hispanic to a recruitment team that travels the country scouting for new candidates and helping to raise money.

"The disagreements we had are in the past," Ms. Solis told Hispanic Business. "We are united as one in working to win the House back for the Democrats and change the course of this country. We know that the only way to do that is to work together and focus on winning in November."

Speaking of disagreements, Dominican President Leonel Fernandez is likely to have an easier time passing the Central American Free Trade Agreement now that his party has control of the legislature. CAFTA-DR was supposed to go into effect last January.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has been on the offensive concerning Latin America, recently telling the Dominican daily Listin Diario that the United States has lost influence in the region to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez because President Bush has ignored Latin American issues. Sen. Menendez, a Cuban-American, said the left-leaning Col. Chavez is taking advantage of America's Iraq preoccupation.

"The reality is that the vacuum the United States has created in its relations with Latin America has been filled by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela," Mr. Menendez said, adding that many of his colleagues on Capitol Hill are uninformed about the region and alienate Latin American countries with their hard line on immigration. "If we don't focus ourselves on Latin America, we will pay the consequences."

(Sen. Menendez, by the way, is in a tight race this November against Republican Tom Kean Jr. to keep the seat he was appointed to when Jon Corzine left Capitol Hill for the Garden State governor's mansion.)

Whether or not Latin American issues really are being neglected, people migrating from south of the border are getting attention. The anti-immigration self-appointed Minutemen, for example, say they will be making a show of patrolling the border until Election Day.

And immigration still divides groups that would normally be allies. The Harvest Institute, a conservative African-American organization in Washington, is circulating a newsletter that attacks immigrants, claiming that "black people have marched and sued…but see little progress" and are victims of "benign neglect" with their issues "put on the back burner" while the country pays attention to immigrants.

The institute says, "Black Americans should protest immigration laws and policies that increase immigration, elevate foreign-born over native-born blacks and force blacks further into a status of a planned, permanent minority." It calls on African Americans to protest against "including immigrants in affirmative action programs," and states that "immigration hurts blacks." A Q&A section of the newsletter asks why most mainstream African Americans support immigration "if it is so harmful," and the answer provided is that some think of themselves above anyone else, others just want to "get along," and yet others simply "lack knowledge" on the issue.

The hilarity ensues with a claim that the United States could have taken possession of "all of Mexico" after the Mexican-American War, but instead "preferred to purchase" the Southwest. Furthermore, the institute says, the U.S. "in fact, overpaid" for the land. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the war that killed almost 40,000 people, did call for the U.S. to pay Mexico for the land $15 million for the swath that includes all of California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona, and chunks of New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming.

Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine and, Copyright (c) 2006 All Rights Reserved.

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